What you need to know
From May 18 to May 26, “Hello Taiwan,” a music event featuring several Taiwanese independent musicians including Paramount and Dwagie, will be held in several major cities in the US. In recent years, the success of Taiwanese independent music has impressed international music enthusiasts and Taiwanese artists have become regulars in many well-known international music festivals.
Translated and compiled by Bing-sheng Lee
From May 18 to May 26, “Hello Taiwan,” a music event aiming to connect young music lovers from Taiwan and the US, will be held in several major cities in the US, including New York, Washington DC, Richmond, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
The music tour, featuring Taiwanese independent musicians, has been organized annually by the Taiwanese American Community since 2010.
This year, music group Paramount will perform music that blends traditional eastern instruments into hip hop, and artists of Kung Fu Entertainment, Lil Man, BR aka Buzz Rhyme, RPG, CK-700, and Handsome will be performing as well. Dwagie, who according to the Hello Taiwan official webpage is a “legendary” hip hop singer from Taiwan, will lead the group.
In recent years, Taiwanese independent bands and musicians have become regulars at well-known international music festivals such as the Glastonbury Festival in the UK, the NXNE music event in Canada, and the Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival in Korea.
Taiwanese rapper DJ Aristophanes, and indie bands TRASH and Queen Suitcase, also performed at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival held in Texas.
These Taiwanese artists were selected by the organizers of the SXSW, which is a nearly-30-year-old international event that attracts more than 100,000 visitors and features 2,200 music performances annually.
In addition, Taiwanese metal rock bands such as CHTHONIC and Flesh Juicer have also established their fame internationally by performing in multiple major foreign music events and being interviewed by music magazines in Europe, Japan, and the US.
Apple Daily reports that the recent success of Taiwanese independent music has impressed international music enthusiasts whose interest of Taiwanese independent music has grown significantly.
The rise of Taiwanese independent music
The popularity of Taiwan’s independent music did not grow significantly until the last decade.
In a music symposium held in Montreal, Canada in 2011, Lin Cheng-ju, director of Riverside Live House in Taipei, said that from 1980 to 2000, Taiwan’s mainstream music was leading the Chinese music industry and its popularity has reached its highest. Yet the huge popularity of mainstream music was limiting the independent music industry during that time.
After 2000, digital technology and the Internet took over the music industry and the market for the mainstream music industry shrunk significantly, creating room for independent music to develop, Lin said.
Lin stated that the limited market size of Taiwan’s music is also an advantage for independent musicians on the island because the fierce competition among artists can raise the quality of their music. He cautioned, however, that the rise of China’s music talent is challenging Taiwan’s music industry.
Liang Yung-pin, secretary-general of Taiwan Music Culture International Alternation Association, said that what is important is how to integrate resources from the government and private sectors, and establish an effective platform to connect local musicians with the global music industry.
Government’s efforts to promote Taiwan music raising controversy
In 2010, to promote Taiwan’s music industry, the Government Information Office proposed a five-year action plan that was implemented from 2010 to 2014.
The plan not only promoted Taiwan’s mainstream music, but also subsidized the burgeoning independent music industry considerably.
According to a research study conducted by Chien Miao-ju, associate professor of the department of Communication at National Chung Cheng University, the number of independent bands rose from around 550 in 2009 to about 1,500 in 2014.
Taiwan Beats reports that Taiwan bands’ growing participation in international music festivals has been the result of the five-year project.
Yet the action plan has raised controversy in the music industry.
Chien said that independent music usually plays the role of criticizing the government and speaking for minority groups, but to attain government subsidies, independent music might become less critical.
In addition, the main reason Taiwanese bands have acquired so many opportunities to perform in international music events in the past decade is that the government paid the event organizers millions of dollars, according to a 2014 TNL article.
The article said that the “pay to play” strategy might be conducive to the popularity of some established bands and musicians, but was very inefficient in promoting more underground independent music groups and artists.
The article argues that what the government should do is encourage musicians to apply for performance opportunities in international music festivals themselves and subsidize those that have been invited and accepted.
The Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development at the Ministry of Culture currently has a project that encourages and supports musicians to perform in international events. Applicants submit an official invitation and records of the event before being given the subsidy, which can only be applied for after the event.
Edited by Olivia Yang
“Lineup of Taiwanese Musicians to Perform in 2016 SXSW Music Festival” (TNL)
“Hello Taiwan! Tour 2016 will be launched on May 18th” (Ministry of Culture)